1. Skyfire – a browser for Windows Mobile

    Posted September 25, 2008 in mobile, software  |  No Comments so far

    Yep, I’m a Windows Mobile user—although I may not be one for too much longer. It looks like there’s going to be a long wait for Windows Mobile 7 (I’m on version 6) and the new HTC/Google Android device has piqued my interest. But for the time being I’m stuck in WinMo world.

    I was therefore glad to read that Skyfire, a Windows Mobile browser that’s been in private beta for several months, has now been released to the public. And although it’s still in beta, it’s pretty much complete.

    Skyfire aims to provide a “real” web experience on a mobile handset. Rather than viewing (at best) mobile versions of sites or (at worst) the mangled results of mobile devices trying to display bad HTML/CSS code, Skyfire seeks to render sites in the same way as your desktop/laptop computer might. And from what I’ve been able to tell so far, it does this pretty well.

    How does this work? Well, the rendering engine for Skyfire doesn’t actually reside on your mobile device itself – that would put way too much strain its CPU. Instead, your device only connects to one of Skyfire’s servers. That server then loads the web pages you request, renders them in full, and streams the rendered output down to your phone.

    The server, of course, doesn’t have the same CPU limitations as your phone, and is therefore able to fully render web pages containing Flash and video. Even bad HTML & CSS code doesn’t cause it problems. It’s quite an interesting experience, seeing Flash and video run so well on a phone.

    There is a downside, however. Server-side rendering takes a horrible strain on a phone’s battery life, and my HTC TyTN II is already struggling to last a whole day without charge. Also, if you’re not on an unlimited data plan, this could be a more expensive way to browse the web than simply using pocket IE.

    So, although I’m pretty impressed by Skyfire, I think I’ll be restricting my use of it to when I’m on a wireless LAN and have my phone on charge.